Dentistry is all about getting and maintaining a healthy smile and functional mouth. General dentistry procedures like checkups and professional cleanings as well as restorative treatments such as fillings and crowns all share the same underlying goal — preserving your oral health.
While tooth extractions may seem counterintuitive to that goal, sometimes they’re the best way to promote oral health, says Dr. Meriem Boukadoum at 54th Street Dental. Take a moment as Dr. Boukadoum explains what happens during an extraction and what you can expect afterward.
Common reasons for a tooth extraction
Tooth extractions are common procedures. In fact, in the United States a surgical tooth extraction is the most common surgical procedure. So if you need one, you realize you’re in good company. But here’s what you really want to know: Will it hurt?
To unpack this topic, let’s look at why you may need a tooth extraction in the first place. The reasons fall into two basic categories: all other means to save the tooth have failed, or removing the tooth resolves other issues like infection or crowding.
Specific reasons for an extraction include:
- Gum disease that leaves surrounding bone unable to support the tooth
- Extensive tooth decay or damage from trauma that a filling can’t repair
- An infected tooth that doesn’t respond to root canal treatment
- An impacted tooth, meaning it can’t break through the gums
You may also need an extraction to create space for orthodontic work.
Keeping you comfortable
Here at 54th Street Dental we take great care in making sure our patients are comfortable regardless of the service or procedure we’re performing.
For an extraction, Dr. Boukadoum begins your appointment by injecting you with a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth.
If needed, you get a stronger anesthetic to let you sleep through the surgery. If you're particularly nervous or fearful, your provider may also offer nitrous oxide to help you relax.
Mechanics of an extraction
Whenever possible, we want to remove the tooth as a whole unit. In the case of an impacted tooth, Dr. Boukadoum needs to cut into the gum and bone tissue to get to the tooth. Then using forceps, she gently grabs and loosens the tooth from the ligaments and jawbone.
In cases where loosening the tooth is particularly challenging, she may resort to removing the tooth in pieces.
Post-op care focuses on healing
Once the tooth is extracted, the whole process moves full swing into TLC and healing. Plan on taking at least a day or two to rest and recover.
Dr. Boukadoum sends you home with specific post-op instructions, which include recommendations on what to eat and how to control swelling. Do yourself a favor and follow them. It will take a few days to feel like yourself again, but don’t push it by doing too much too soon.
You want to be particularly gentle around the empty socket where your tooth once was. Healing starts when a blood clot forms over the now-exposed bone and nerves. The clot protects the socket from food debris and intrusions that threaten the healing process.
Avoid activities that can loosen or dislodge the clot, such as spitting, drinking through a straw, smoking, or rinsing vigorously. Disturbing the clot creates a condition called dry socket, which not only stops the healing process in its tracks but is also exceptionally painful.
After several days, the pain and discomfort subside. If you’re still experiencing pain or if it’s accompanied by a fever or drainage from the extraction site, you may be developing an infection. Contact us right away.
If you need an extraction and want to learn more, contact us today by using the online booking tool to request an appointment, or call our office in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City at 212-333-3200.